THEY’RE HERE ALREADY
Today is both a big and a historic day for the Church in the United States. In Los Angeles this afternoon, the largest archdiocese in the US is about to receive a successor to Cardinal Roger Mahony although the succession will not take place until early in 2011. And, here is the neat thing about it, the traditional “Irish cardinalatial seat” will soon be occupied by a Mexican.
Archbishop Jose Gomez, born and raised in Mexico, is today being received in Los Angeles as “Co-adjutor Archbishop with right of Succession.” What the ecclesiastical gobbley-gook means is that when Cardinal Mahony’s letter of resignation is received, like on his seventy-fifty birthday early next year, Archbishop Gomez will automatically become LA’s archbishop. Los Angeles’ Catholic population is already majority Hispanic. In transferring Archbishop Gomez from his present assignment as Archbishop of San Antonio to Los Angeles, the Holy Father is indicating, following the strong recommendation of Cardinal Mahony himself, that LA is now ready to be shepherded by a man whose first language is Spanish, whose background is Mexican, and whose love of and service to the Church is beyond challenge. Hispanics are already present in sufficient numbers in LA to recommend that their new archbishop be one of them even though he will serve a linguistically and culturally diverse Church. It is a great day for the Hispanic Catholics not just in LA but throughout the church in the United States. But it is also a good day for the whole Church of Los Angeles. Their new shepherd has great experience in serving the whole Church and not just a single segment of the population. Archbishop Gomez is a member of OPUS DEI, an association of ordained men and lay men and women begun in the last century in Spain. He has served in many capacities as a pastor throughout the United States, in Denver as an auxiliary bishop, in San Antonio as Archbishop, and now in the US’s largest diocese, Los Angeles. I know him to be a kind man, good listener, strong defender of the faith when he deems it necessary, and open to all. He is the right man to make this kind of Catholic history.
Obviously, it is likely that he will some day join the college of cardinals and when that happens he will be the first Hispanic cardinal in the United States in our history as a Church. Mexico has always had its share of Cardinals in cities such as Mexico City, Monterey, Guadalahara to name a few, but when the United States gets it first Hispanic red hat, it means that Hispanic Catholics in the United States have finally arrived.
There is still too much xenophobia in the Church in our country. Anglo Catholics and immigrants from Asia and Eastern Europe are still foreclosed in many ways to the reality that within two decades, the majority of U.S. Catholics will be of Hispanic origin. Miami would be an archdiocese with a larger Hispanic population than Anglo but it also is home to a great number of Haitian Catholics as well – thus its new Archbishop is capable to lead his people in all three languages and is in touch with all three cultures. Someday it will have a shepherd with a different native tongue and from a different cultural tradition. So may St. Petersburg some day and it is not too soon for our younger Catholics to open their hearts and minds and be open to the present reality that Hispanics in great number are not a future possibility, rather, they are already here.
Congratulations to Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, to the Church of Los Angeles, and to the Church of Jesus Christ for being open to the realities of the times.
Update: The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has information about the reception of Archbishop Gomez at coadjutor.la-archdiocese.org
Update 2: Este artículo también está disponible en español: ELLOS YA ESTÁN AQUÍ.